The lyrics say ‘Very twee, very me’, and I think it is very me, that stuff. The Beatles made a sort of Englishy sort of music, once they got past their American roots, American influences. You know, a lot of our early stuff was ‘Some other guy now’ and, you know, pure soul R&B stuff that we loved [sings ‘Twist and Shout’] was directly taken from America. But then we started to sort of work in little things that were more us, and erm that kind of thing, that’s particularly me that kind of English Tea type of thing.
Again it was this fascination with sort of how people speak, how some English people speak. But the idea started, I was on holiday, and if you want a cup of tea, you don’t do what you do in England, say ‘A cup of tea please’. They always say ‘What kind of tea?’ You know like in England nobody would ever say ‘What kind of tea?’ Well, they actually would these days, but in the old days it was never like ‘What kind of tea?’ It’d be like ‘What do you mean? Cuppa tea.’ So now they say ‘What kind of tea?’ and you have to say ‘English Breakfast tea’ and then they go ‘Oh, OK’ and you get it. You know, you get an ordinary cup of tea. So I just thought, that’s amazing that, calling it English tea, but I thought it’s kind of original because we don’t call it that.
So I just started playing with that idea, of English tea. And then as I say there’s one particular older English person I’m thinking of, who instead of saying ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ might say ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ It’s just the way they say it, and I love that. ‘Would you care?’ and in this case ‘Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?’ And so I really went to town on that whole fruity way of talking, that whole fruity language that I like. I think it’s very endearing, very English.
I even managed to work in the word ‘peradventure’ which I was very proud of. ’Cause that’s like, ’cause I read Dickens quite a bit, it came to me from…I thought there is a word ‘peradventure’ and I think as I say I read it in Dickens – you get these old usages of words in there. And I thought, ‘I do hope I’m right ’cause I’ve put it in the song.’ ‘Do you know the game croquet … Peradventure we might play’ … You know, I thought ‘Oh I hope this is right.’ I looked it up in the dictionary: ‘Peradventure – perhaps, maybe.’ Yes!
I thought, ‘Oh great, I’m sure not many people work that into a song.’ And then also, ‘Do you know the game croquet, peradventure we might play/Very gay, hip hooray’. You know, in the old sense of the word ‘gay’, so it was nice, it was that croquet, very English, lawns, hollyhocks, roses, very Alice in Wonderland, that was also in the back of my mind, which influenced a lot of me and John’s writing. ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, that’s Alice to us you know. [Sings] ‘Picture yourself…’ The whole idea of ‘picture yourself’, you know, in a boat on a river, very Alice, very Lewis Carroll, It’s just the way I like to write that, so a fruity little song.
Chaos And Creation In The Backyard interview, July 2005
The basic track for ‘English Tea’ was recorded in November 2004, with overdubs added in April 2005. Joby Talbot arranged the string quartet parts and conducted the Millennia Ensemble.